The Second Teaching
Arjuna sat dejected, filled with pity; his eyes blurred by tears.
Why this cowardice in the time of crisis, Arjuna? This ignobility and shamefulness is foreign to the ways of heaven. This impotence is unnatural in you. Banish this petty weakness from your heart. Raise and fight, Arjuna!
Krishna how can I fight against Bhishma and Drona when they deserve my worship? I would rather beg for scraps of food than eat meals smeared with the blood of elders. We will not want to live if we kill the sons of Dhritarashtra. In the presence of conflicting sacred duties I cannot think clearly. I feel piteous.
Please be my teacher, tell me what I seek! I don’t know how to get rid of my grief that is clouding my senses. What’s the use even if I conquer the kingdom and win sovereignty over gods?
Arjuna said, I shall not fight, and fell silent.
Seated next to the dejected Arjuna between the two armies Krishna said:
Learned men do not grieve for the dead or the living. None of us have not existed nor shall we cease to exist. The way we embody childhood, youth and old age, at death we enter a new body. We sense pleasure and pain, heat and cold because we have body. These things are fleeting. These cannot torment a man. A man for whom suffering and joy are equal is fit for immortality.
Being does not cease to exist. Nothing of nonbeing comes to be. No one can destroy the indestructible. Our bodies end but the embodied Self does not. The embodied Self is enduring, indestructible and immeasurable. Therefore, Arjuna fight the battle! Try to understand that Self cannot kill and nor can it be killed.
Self is not born, it does not die. It is not killed when the body is killed. When a man knows that Self is indestructible, enduring, unborn, unchanging, how can he kill or cause anyone to kill?
As a man discards worn-out clothes to put on new and different ones, so the embodied Self discards its worn-out bodies to take on other new ones. Self cannot be cut or burned, wet or withered. It is enduring, all pervasive, fixed, immovable, and timeless. Therefore why do you grieve?
Death is certain for anyone born and birth is certain for the dead; since the cycle is inevitable, you have no cause to grieve! Creatures are unmanifest in origin, manifest in the midst of life, and unmanifest again in the end. Since this is so why do you lament?”
Arjuna, the Self-embodied in the body of every being is indestructible. No one sees it, speaks it, hears it. So you have no cause to grieve for all these creatures.
Nothing is better for a warrior than a battle of sacred duty. Pay attention to your own duty. Rejoice for a chance to fight a battle like this. This is your sacred duty. Wage this war. If you abandon it you will only gain notoriety. People will talk about your shame. For a man of honor shame is worse than death. The great warriors will think you deserted in fear. Those who held in esteem will despise you. Your enemies will slander you, scorn your skill.
If you are killed you win heaven; if you conquer you enjoy the earth, Arjuna! Fight the battle! Be detached from joy and suffering, gain and loss, victory and defeat, and arm yourself for the battle. Hear this spiritual teaching and you will escape the bondage of your action.
No effort in this world is wasted; even a fragment of sacred duty saves you from great fear. Undiscerning men proclaim, “There is nothing else! (Beyond this life)” They are driven by desire and strive after power and delight. Their reason is lost in words. They do not contemplate so they have no understanding of inner resolve. Arjuna, the sacred lore is beyond dualities and mundane rewards. All the sacred lore is like a well where water flows everywhere.
Be intent on action, not on the fruit of action, avoid attraction to the fruits and attachment to inaction. Perform action with discipline. Be impartial to failure and success. Action is far inferior to the discipline of understanding. Understand through discipline and abandon both good and evil deeds. Discipline is skill in action. Wise men take disciplined action and relinquish the fruit born of action. See beyond the swarm of delusion and be indifferent to the sacred lore. When your understanding is fixed, immovable in contemplation, then you will reach discipline.
Krishna, what defines a man deep in contemplation whose insight and thought are sure?
When he gives up desire in his mind and is content with the Self within himself. When he shows no preference in fortune or misfortune; when he neither exults nor hates. The insight of such a man is sure. When suffering does not disturb his mind, when his craving has vanished and fear and anger are gone. The thought of such a man is sure. When, like a tortoise retracting its limbs, he withdraws his senses completely from sensuous objects such a man’s insight is sure.
Senses are difficult to control. The bewildered senses attack even a man of wisdom. When all the senses are controlled, a disciplined man focuses on me. If a man broods about sensuous objects the attachment grows; from attachment desire arises and from desire anger is born. From anger comes confusion, from confusion memory lapses; from broken memory understanding is lost; from loss of understanding his life is ruined.
A man of inner strength, who has controlled his senses and is without attraction and hate, finds serenity. Serenity dissolves all sorrows. Reason becomes serene, understanding is sure. But without discipline there is no inner power, no peace and without peace where is joy? Great warrior, when the senses are withdrawn discernment is firm.
As the depths of the ocean are unmoved when waters rush into it, so a man of wisdom is unmoved when desires enter him. He acts without craving, possessiveness or individuality. Such a man attains peace that eludes the man of many desires. This peaceful place is the infinite spirit. Once one achieves it he is free from delusion. He abides in it even at the time of death and finds the calm of infinity.
As I Understand It
This chapter has been abridged, as would be the rest of the chapters. The second teaching is an overview of the rest of the Gita’s sixteen chapters. It touches on almost all of its main teachings.
One must discipline one’s senses. Uncontrolled senses crave immediate gratification. Such desires are always at odds with lasting peace. A person with undisciplined senses is confused and scattered and never gratified. His way of life is certain to lead to disorderly life and eventually chaos.
A wise man is free of desires, works with dedication and is focused on his actions. He has no wish for the fruit of his actions. He works with devotion but has no desire for a reward. He works with artist’s dedication. For a creative mind the work well done is in itself the reward. He does not hanker after fruit of his work but uses this teaching to do his work.
Ultimately scriptures have nothing to teach, only the practice of meditation clears the mind and releases unconditional love. Wisdom and love is already present inside us. Rest contented in the Self and feel its radiance!
The talk of the realm deep within (Atman) and without (Brahman) is new to Arjuna’s ears. This is the reason he asks how would the awareness of the divinity within affect the way he lived? How would resting in the Self change his everyday life?
Krishna says that if he were constantly aware of this ever-present reality it would clarify his mind and help him make better judgment. That he would not get emotionally tangled with the outcome of his work. That if he lived with unbroken awareness of the Self, unmotivated by selfish desires, detached from the perishable body he would know that everyone has the same Self, Atman, that he does.
The Bhagavad Gita, Translated for the Modern Reader with general introduction by Eknath Easwaran, chapter introductions by Diana Morrison. Nilgiri Press, Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, California.1996 (1st Pub. 1985).
The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna Counsel in Time of War, Translation and Introduction by Barbara Stoler Miller. Bantam Doubleday Dell Group, Inc. New York. Bantam Books, 1986.
Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation, Stephen Mitchell, Three Rivers Press, New York, 2000.